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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Sri Lanka: 22th Amendment of Ranil Rajapaksa govt barely touches Gota’s powers.

The government’s 22nd Amendment to the Constitution has been gazetted. It is bad. It is far weaker than any of the versions previously proposed by the Minister of Justice (even his own private members bill)

The Constitutional Council is sham. It gives the government control & is just a continuation of what is there under the 20th amendment. The government will have control of 7 of the 10 members when the President & government are from the same political party.

If the Constitutional Council is controlled by the government, then the “independent commissions” are no longer independent. So it doesn’t matter how many new commissions you add. This is NOT what was there in the 19A.

The changes proposed in the Bill to the President’s powers in appointing Cabinet of Ministers & allocating subjects and functions to Ministers will only come into operation from the next Parliament. So the current President’s powers remain unchanged as they are today.

The President’s power to prorogue Parliament when ever he wishes & dissolve Parliament after 2.5 years without the approval of Parliament hasn’t been changed. So President retains control over Parliament “over the life of Parliament”.

The President will continue to be able to appoint all Secretaries to Ministry (SoM) on his own discretion. The SoM is the person who exercises supervision & control over the institutions that come under a Ministry, Especially in relation to financial control.

The Bill provides for SoMs to function despite the dissolution of the Cabinet of ministers until a new Cabinet is appointed (remember after MR resigned in May 2022). This is an admission that the President acted outside the Constitution when he appointed MoS without a Cabinet.

There are some improvements from the 20A, the main being the President can only retain the subject of Defence with him. But if past experience is anything to go by the President will have a broad interpretation of what comes under defence.

The Attorney General’s department has argued that economic security is part of national security.

The President’s power to remove the Prime Minister has been removed & this will make the PM subject to the control of Parliament. BUT AGAIN this won’t apply to this Parliament

So to recap, the governments 22A is the weakest proposal so far to reform the Presidential system. It does not go to the level of even the 19A. More importantly many of the limited changes made will not impact @GotabayaR unless he dissolves the current Parliament.

This 22A is no change from what we have right now, it is just dressed up to look like something new. I am not even sure why we are wasting our time & money debating this in Parliament. If this is the best “reform” this Parliament can deliver, they might as well go home.

(Tweets from @LuwieNiranjan)

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